Evidence for reduced domain-specificity in auditory processing in autism


Address for correspondence: Anna Järvinen-Pasley, Laboratory for Cognitive Neuroscience, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, 10010 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037-1099, USA; e-mail: pasley@salk.edu


Neurological and behavioral findings indicate that atypical auditory processing characterizes autism. The present study tested the hypothesis that auditory processing is less domain-specific in autism than in typical development. Participants with autism and controls completed a pitch sequence discrimination task in which same/different judgments of music and/or speech stimulus pairs were made. A signal detection analysis showed no difference in pitch sensitivity across conditions in the autism group, while controls exhibited significantly poorer performance in conditions incorporating speech. The results are largely consistent with perceptual theories of autism, which propose that a processing bias towards featural/low-level information characterizes the disorder, as well as supporting the notion that such individuals exhibit selective attention to a limited number of simultaneously presented cues.